Certainly, you’ve heard the phrase “an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.” In sports it typically describes two teams — or players — at the top of their game, rolling on all cylinders, getting ready to collide.
Thursday night’s game between the Buckeyes (11-11, 3-8) and Badgers (13-8, 5-6) is whatever you’d call the exact opposite of that. Ohio State and Wisconsin have both bottomed out, losing 13 of their last 15 games combined. Both teams needed a win in the worst way Thursday night, yet the exact same phrase has been used for both over the past three weeks and it hasn’t changed anything for either!
Whether you consider Wisconsin the “unstoppable force” or the “immovable object” is up to you, but Greg Gard’s Badgers were able to snag a big road win Thursday night in Columbus, 65-60. Connor Essegian led Wiconsin with 17 points on 5-10 shooting over 35 minutes. He also had seven rebounds and a steal. Chuckie Hepburn, Steven Crowl, and and Max Klesmit also scored in double digits.
Despite fouling out after only 16 minutes, Brice Sensabaugh led Ohio State in scoring for the 13th-straight game with 13 points on 5-7 shooting. Zed Key was Ohio State’s only other double-digit scorer with 12 points.
After a tough game at Indiana, Justice Sueing went back to the bench for Ohio State. In his place was Isaac Likekele, as well as Bruce Thornton, Sean McNeil, Sensabaugh, and Key. Wisconsin went with a starting five of Hepburn, Essegian, Klesmit, Tyler Wahl, and Crowl down low.
The Badgers jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead just 90 seconds into the game, courtesy of three-pointers from Essegian and Klesmit, as well as an Essegian layup. After Klesmit’s three from just in front of the bench dropped to make it 8-0, the junior transfer from Wofford turned and talked to Ohio State’s bench. Chris Holtmann immediately called timeout, using his first less than two minutes into the game. The Buckeyes bounced back immediately after the timeout, going on an 8-0 run to tie the game over the next 1:20. Sensabaugh scored all eight points on just three shots, naturally, and the teams went into the first media timeout tied 8-8.
The Badgers broke open a 10-point lead by the under-eight timeout, 26-16. Ohio State aided the Badgers by turning the ball over on four-consecutive possessions, three of which came after Wisconsin did not score at their end. Crowl was a big problem for the Buckeyes in the first half especially, nearly reaching his season average of 12 points after just 13 minutes of play. Crowl went on to finish with 14 points on 6-10 shooting over 35 minutes.
Following some dramatics in the final seconds of the first half, Wisconsin went to the halftime locker room up 43-27 — the second consecutive game Ohio State trailed by 16 at halftime. Down 10 points with a chance to make it a single-digit deficit in the closing seconds, Chris Holtmann was ejected after Sueing was called for an offensive foul on Wahl. Wahl began to fall before the contact came, and the Ohio State bench wanted a block — or a flop — called. Wisconsin turned that foul call into a six-point possession (four free throws and a bucket) and went to the halftime break up 16.
The freshman Essegian led Wisconsin with 14 first-half points, four of which were from the technical free throws. Sensabaugh had 11 first-half points for the Buckeyes and was their only double-digit scorer in the opening stanza.
Ohio State cut Wisconsin’s lead to 52-41 with 12 minutes remaining, but Carter Gilmore scored through contact on the ensuing possession. The junior big man was fouled by Roddy Gayle as well but missed the free throw to keep the score at 54-41 Wisconsin.
The Buckeyes got within 10 once more with just under nine minutes to go, but Wisconsin had an answer in the form of another Klesmit three-burger to make it a 13 point game yet again. However, the Buckeyes went on a late 9-0 run starting at the 6:09 mark, getting back within six points of the Badgers at one point, 62-56.
However, the spirited comeback was not enough, and this team simply does not play good enough defense to come back from a 16-point deficit. Ohio State ultimately fell, 65-60.
If you weren’t around tonight to see Ohio State lose yet another Big Ten contest, here are a few of the key plays and runs that helped lead Wisconsin to their fifth win in the B1G:
Wisconsin jumps out early, Klesmit starts talking
The Badgers came out of the locker room and immediately popped Ohio State in the mouth, scoring eight-straight points over the first 90 seconds, forcing Ohio State to take a timeout. After Klesmit hit a three-pointer right in front of Chris Holtmann to make it 8-0, the junior guard turned around and politely told the Buckeye bench what he’d just done. Holtmann called his first timeout of the game right away.
Klesmit finished with 12 points on 4-9 shooting over 32 minutes.
Sensabaugh goes on a quick 8-0 run
After the Ohio State timeout, freshman star Brice Sensabaugh went on an 8-0 run of his own to tie the game. He hit back-to-back three-pointers and followed them up with a contested baseline floater over the head of Klesmit to tie things at eight-all going into the first media timeout. Sensabaugh scored eight points in exactly 80 seconds.
Sensabaugh finished with a team-high 13 points on 5-7 shooting over 16 minutes. Sensabaugh fouled out of the game three seconds after checking back into the game with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Four-consecutive turnovers for the Buckeyes — a record?
Trailing 21-16 with just under 11 minutes remaining in the first half, Klesmit missed a three, and Ohio State secured the rebound. At the other end, Bruce Thornton missed a three-pointer, but Sueing was able to secure the long offensive rebound. The ball worked its way to Key, but he traveled.
Wisconsin’s Crowl scored on the ensuing possession to make it 23-16, but Sueing lost the ball out of bounds for a turnover on the next possession — Ohio State’s second-straight turnover.
Klesmit missed a three-pointer on the following Wisconsin possession, and Ohio State turned the ball over again — this time it was Tanner Holden who lost the ball as he tried to get going downhill towards the right side of the basket.
Hepburn missed a layup on Wisconsin’s next possession, but Sueing traveled in a crowd of Badgers — Ohio State’s fourth consecutive turnover. Essegian knocked down another three-pointer on the next Wisconsin turnover, making it 26-16 Badgers with 7:41 remaining in the half.
Let’s go to the beach, beach
After Wisconsin stretched their lead to 33-23, Bruce Thornton missed a long three but was able to grab his own rebound. After he grabbed the board, a Brutus beach ball that was being smacked around behind the basket by students made its way onto the court, halting play. Security took the ball away and both teams went to their benches with the Badgers up 10.
Hepburn gives Wisconsin a 15-point lead
Moments after Hepburn gave Wisconsin a 30-18 lead on a floater, Hepburn came down the court and drilled a three from the left wing to give the Badgers a 33-18 lead — their biggest of the game to that point with 4:06 remaining.
Hepburn finished the game with 15 points on 5-14 shooting over 35 minutes. He also had two rebounds and three assists.
Holtmann ejected following Sueing’s offensive foul
Down 37-27 and holding for the final possession of the half, Likekele missed a layup but Sueing was able to corral the rebound. Sueing tried to back down Wahl in the post to score before the buzzer but was whistled for an offensive foul on what appeared to be a clear flop by Wahl.
For the second-straight game, Holtmann lost his mind at the officials and was issued a double-technical foul. Holtmann was ejected from the game, and Wisconsin hit all four free throws earned from the two technicals. Wisconsin then scored a bucket on a Chuckie Hepburn floater at the buzzer to make it 43-27 Badgers at the break.
Both the Badgers and the officiating crew ran to the tunnel with a chorus of boos raining down on them from the crowd. Wisconsin, however, was all smiles, knowing this game was all but wrapped up.
Ohio State gets back within 10 points for 21 seconds
With 8:59 remaining in the game, Key grabbed Likekele’s missed layup and scored to get the Buckeyes back within 10 points, 57-47. It was the closest they’d been in over 11 minutes, but Klesmit answered with a triple at the other end to put the Badgers back in front again, 60-47.
Buckeyes go on 9-0 run, cut deficit to six points
After falling behind by 15 points with just over six minutes remaining, the Buckeyes went on a quick 9-0 run without Sensabaugh, who fouled out of the game with 9:20 remaining. McNeil, Key, Thornton, and Felix Okpara all scored during the run, which ignited a crowd that was already jeering loudly at the officiating crew from how the first half of the game ended.
Ohio State (11-11, 3-8) heads north to take on the Michigan Wolverines (12-10, 6-5) this weekend in Ann Arbor. Heading into Thursday night’s game against Northwestern, the Wolverines had lost three of their last four and were two games ahead of Ohio State in the Big Ten standings. The Buckeyes’ showdown in Ann Arbor is set to tip off at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on CBS.